Unless you have been away on a long vacation or avoiding all news, you know that recycling is facing some major challenges. Paper, cardboard, glass, cans, and plastic are separated by type and then shipped on to companies that do additional processing. Eventually, the can or plastic bottle that you recycled becomes a raw material in making a new product, such as a new can or bottle. That bottle or can is filled, sent to a store, and the process begins again.
At least that is how it is supposed to work. Recycling is a group project and, unfortunately, not everyone in the group is doing their part. Items that are dirty or just don’t belong are going into recycling bins. Dirty recyclables contaminate clean material. Items that don’t belong can get hopelessly tangled with other items or in machines at the sorting facility. Yucky items, such as diapers, can create a huge mess and ruin entire loads of recyclables.
We all need to focus on quality instead of quantity. Eager recyclers still need to recycle items correctly in local programs instead of “wishcycling.” Wishcycling is tossing anything that seems recyclable, including many plastic products, into the recycling bins without knowing if they are accepted in your local program.
Check out this short video produced by the Solid Waste Association of North America to learn more about recycling right. By focusing on recycling right, you can help reduce contamination and keep recyclable materials in circulation.
Here are some simple guidelines to help you recycle right:
• Collect only those items your community recycles. These may include food and drink cans, glass bottles and jars, plastic bottles and jugs marked #1 or #2, paper, and/or boxes. Contact your local solid waste authority to prevent wishrecycling!
• Empty all food and beverage containers. Wipe or rinse them out. Allow containers to dry.
• Keep caps ON plastic bottles and jugs.
• Remove caps from glass bottles and jars.
• Keep newspaper, cardboard, and mixed paper clean and dry.
• Empty your bags full of recyclables into the receptacle, and reuse that bag again. (Reusable shopping bags work well. Designate a few for recycling only.)
• If in doubt, toss it into the trash.
If you have any questions about what, where, or how to recycle locally, please check with your local solid waste management district or service before tossing materials in the bin.
Photo credit: robcruse | E+ | Getty Images